Why Decorating Your Home Is Good for Your Mental Health

Health & Wellness

Decorating and mental health
Photo by Chelsey Werth

Originally published in April 2019

I was knee-deep in a bin of organized socks when I realized I was doing it again. Rage cleaning.

When I can’t control my worries with meditation or a good SSRI (praise be), I will indulge in a night of rage cleaning—wherein I feverishly tidy every corner of my home hoping to uncover some sort of calm and peace. Sometimes I feel better. Sometimes I feel worse. It’s almost always a sign I’m not managing my stress levels. And now that I’m talking about rage cleaning, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

We all have little quirks we turn to when feeling a little (or a lot) anxious. Mine? Well, rage cleaning became the coping mechanism in my teenage years. Every time a stressor loomed, I would get into organization mode, sometimes taking it upon myself to organize my sibling’s rooms along with my parent’s kitchen. Once, I placed notes on everyone’s bedside tables outlining how we could all do our part in making mornings a little less hectic and chaotic. My parents thought it was cute (mostly because I wasn’t out getting tattoos—still a cardinal sign in their eyes). They saw and appreciated my gusto for self-improvement, but in hindsight, my propensity to improve and control myself and others came from anxiety and battered self-esteem.

It came from the expectations to win another national title; the pressure of maintaining a size zero pant size; the genuine struggles with ADHD I kept hidden from everyone. In trying to improve and control everything around me, I was just looking for an escape from the pressures of looming adulthood. Perhaps my inclination to control my surroundings was the beginning of an itch to “leave the nest,” coupled with a bit of teenage angst. Yet a little over fifteen years later, home (for me) needs to be a place where the external stressors of my world are required to wait outside.

I rage clean less today because I found a new way of dealing with the chaos of the world around me, and that is… being slightly obsessed with nesting and ALL things related to interior design.

In many ways, caring for your space is a form of self-care.

Our personal spaces are the ones that set the stage for our lives. They do not require a vision board or even a Pinterest board. And while removing clutter is a huge part of caring for your space, it won’t necessarily reveal the home you NEED, just the one you might think you want. While we can’t control much of anything in this world, we can control what our spaces do for our psyche and our time spent with one another. We don’t need a picture-perfect house or designer furniture to create a haven for ourselves. In fact, if you’re feeling triggered by what you don’t have as it relates to material things, it probably means it is time go inward and explore what you may need emotionally or physically at home to feel more at peace. Easier said than done, but it’s usually what I need when I start comparing my life to someone else’s.

We don’t need a picture-perfect house or designer furniture to create a haven for ourselves. In fact, if you’re feeling triggered by what you don’t have as it relates to material things, it probably means it is time go inward and explore what you may need emotionally or physically at home to feel more at peace.

So what does my personal haven from the outside world look like? It’s a place where it is ok to be as messy as I’d like, to cry as loudly as I please, to indulge in frivolity without guilt. It’s the place where my kids feel like they can be 100% themselves, and can also begin to learn their own tactics for self-care—like when they need alone time or a little nook that’s all their own. It’s having that spot on the couch where we have our hard talks and good fights. It’s where everything that really matters happens. And most of it is right within our four walls.

Start with what you cherish about your life that money can’t buy. Then build your home around it.

What I’ve realized as we prepared for our 2019 remodel is this: The care I put into my space is almost always a reflection of the care I needed myself. It’s a reflection of what I’m teaching my kids about advocating for their own needs, and recognizing that my space is their space. In a way, designing my home became a subconscious way to heal during the years I was in therapy, and the way I prepared to become the best mother I could be before the babies arrived. Today, taking care of my space is just another way I show my family I love them. And really, there isn’t one style, design aesthetic, or budget that can make that happen for you. It’s much simpler than that.

And speaking of love and simple pleasures, as I am sitting here writing this—hot coffee in hand and light streaming in from the windows—this song came on:

I’ll light the fire, you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me.
Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is done.
Such a cozy room,
The windows are illuminated by the evening sunshine through them,
Fiery gems for you, only for you.
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard,
Life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy ’cause of you and our—
La, la, la

Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

BY Kate Arends - April 4, 2020

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April 4, 2020 4:56 pm

oh decluttering… ive decluttered more on the past week than i have in years hahaha its quite funny i have to admir

stay safe!
Beijinhos Jessy

April 8, 2020 3:27 pm

This was a lovely piece. Thank you!

April 11, 2020 6:20 pm

I 100% agree that our homes can affect our mental health. We purchased a fixer upper and the poor lighting, gross cabinets, staring at holes in drywall and toilet pipes was taking a toll on me. Luckily my husband understood and was happy to let me renovate our main living areas. We just finished up and I must say, every single time I walk into our home now, I feel so much better. It’s crazy how much our environment can affect our mental health!

October 12, 2020 3:08 pm

My husband is definitely a rage cleaner, I read the first part of the article to him and it was so, so recognizable. He also has ADHD, and we also thought it was kinda useful. Until he hit a burn out recently. His therapist actually forbad him to clean for a while and slow down. So a very timely article for us! Thanks.

October 13, 2020 12:22 pm

Congratulations on the friendly article, I loved it. We are your fans. We love your topics, they bring a lot of variety of thoughts and the conclusions after reading them are all positive. Taking care of the home is taking care of the soul. We have to focus on the interior and climb the closest thing. Soul, home, family, friends, aesthetics and so on. We cannot do much about the problems that exist on the outside. A hug to all!

February 24, 2021 11:17 am

I love such simple style… a great living room to spend relax time.

March 16, 2021 11:52 am

Thank you for sharing your experience. I am not very different in my love of cleanliness and I can even just forget about it if I work a lot, for example. But I also noticed a similar feeling that when I put everything in order in my apartment, it becomes a little easier on my soul. That is, I have the feeling that I am removing all the bad things from my life. It really helps in part to deal with stress and relax. But I understand that this is not normal and I need to be able to cope… Read more »

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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.

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